Following distance: Why personal space is important when you’re driving a tow truck

Things happen fast on the road. The flow of traffic can change with a second’s notice. Since you’re driving a tow truck, you need as much notice as possible to be able to adjust to sudden changes on the road, like someone having to hit the brakes hard. To give yourself time to react and slow your tow truck or wrecker, you need to have lots of following distance between your tow truck and the car in front of you. Personal space is a good thing.

Even if you drive carefully and defensively, if you’re tailgating you might not have a way to prevent hitting the car in front of you if they have to slow down suddenly. Leaving plenty of following distance in front of the tow truck is a simple way to stop a rear-end accident from happening. And preventing accidents means saving money on your tow truck insurance rates!

The reason why having lots of following distance is so necessary for tow truck drivers is that tow trucks and wreckers are larger and heavier than your typical passenger car. That means that it takes a while for them to slow down and come to a complete stop. In short, they need more distance than a passenger car to stop. Having lots of space also gives you more time to process and react to an unexpected situation, like a car changing lanes in front of you or a sudden slow-down in traffic.

How much following distance do I need?

A good rule of thumb is to leave one second for every ten feet of tow truck if you’re going 40 mph or less. So, if your truck is 15 feet long, you should leave 1.5 seconds between you and the car in front. Now, if you’re traveling faster than 40 mph, you should add another second per ten feet of tow truck. That’s two seconds per ten feet of truck. That means that for that same fifteen-foot-long truck you should leave three seconds (1.5 x 2) of following distance.

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To tell how many seconds are between you and the lead car, pick a landmark, such as a street sign or interesting tree. When the lead car passes it, count how many seconds it takes until your tow truck passes the same spot. If it’s not enough seconds, back off and increase your following distance. No matter how tight your schedule is and how busy you are, there’s no need to risk the dangers of speeding or risk a preventable accident.

Situations that require even more space.

Sometimes you need even more following distance. Some of those situations are…

Bad weather:

When you’re driving in bad weather like rain or fog, your visibility is reduced. You might not be able to see what’s happening up ahead as clearly, which means that you won’t react to sudden changes as quickly. Plus, roads get slick in the rain, especially in the first half-hour after the rain starts. Your tires might not get as much traction. And all of these things mean that you need to slow down and increase your following distance. It’s also not a bad idea to increase your following distance if you’re driving at night.


Heave traffic is another situation that calls for added caution. Stop and go traffic can have a lot of emphasis on the “stop” part, so you need to leave lots of space in front of your tow truck when the traffic does move and you start crawling forward.

Road conditions:

If road conditions are poor or if there’s road work going on, it’s a good idea to increase your personal space. You never know if a sudden stop if going to happen, and a calm, relaxed, roll-to-a-halt is much preferable to a panicked slam-on-the-brakes. Adjusting your driving for road conditions is part of being a defensive driver.

Keeping a healthy following distance is a fundamental safe driving practice. It’s important to prevent accidents that are preventable, and rear-end accidents can sometimes be avoided simply by keeping an appropriate distance between you and the car in front, especially if the weather’s bad or you’re in heavy traffic. Driving is already dangerous enough, and there’s no need to make it even more so by tailgating.

We can help you save on your tow truck insurance.

Are you looking to save money on your tow truck insurance rates? We’d love to help you out with that. Out tow truck insurance professionals are pros at making insurance easy and getting wrecker businesses great rates. To get tow truck insurance quotes, just fill out our online form or give us a call. We’re at your service.


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